Taking Stock

According to Merriam-Webster: “Definition of take stock: to carefully think about something in order to make a decision about what to do next. We need to take stock and formulate a plan.” A very close friend, Angie, was in a serious car accident this week. One minute she was on her hour-long commute to work and the next she was pinned in her car waiting to be cut out. Fast forward 48 hours and she’s had surgery on her knee cap and is thankful she didn’t lose her leg. Or her life. This has caused me to pause and take stock.

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This all happened on a Monday morning. 99% of the world continued with business as usual. My life, for the most part, continued as usual. I started to extrapolate forward on behalf of my friend. Where was her master bedroom, first floor or second floor? Can you drive a car without the use of a right leg? Will she ever want to return to her job and her hour-long commute? How will this affect her in the long term? What would I do if I was in her shoes? There are no correct answers. There are only a lot of questions.

This is what I have taken stock of:

Can do

I have an iWatch that tracks my steps. Ever since I completed my short section hike on the Appalachian Trail (15 miles), I haven’t been walking that much. I recently found out I have a torn meniscus in my left knee and I have been apprehensive about injuring it more. But in the last week? Post-accident? I have tripled my steps. It prompted me to look at what I can do. I have two working legs and who knows if and when that might be taken away from me. I have a strength workout that my boyfriend designed for me that involves lunges, air squats, planks, and pushups. Yep. I can do that as well. I almost feel like I am doing the workouts for Angie. I’ve taken stock in what I can do.

Assessment

I have a small step between my sunroom and my kitchen. There are three steps up to my front door. I don’t think I could get a wheelchair into my bathroom. Closet doors open into a narrow hallway. There is no easy path from my driveway to my front door. I never noticed these things before. What if I was suddenly in a wheelchair and unable to go up small steps? What would I do in the interim until ramps could be built? I’m sure these are things that an ergonomics expert or physical therapist sees without a second thought. It’s been all I see since Monday. I’ve taken stock of close surroundings and in what’s available.

Uncertainty

I am writing this on a Saturday, just five days after the accident. Angie has at least three surgeries in her future and who knows what else. I’m sure on Monday morning, as she prepared to head to work, she had no idea that her life would be so full of uncertainty only a few short hours later. I have a new appreciation that everything is uncertain for us all. You may think you are going to take that business trip or buy that car or scratch your dog when you get home. But we just don’t know. Nothing is guaranteed. Sure, most of it will happen and unfold as expected, but life is uncertain. I’ve taken stock in the uncertainty of it all.

Forgiveness

The man who crossed the center line and hit Angie head-on is on the same hospital floor as Angie. His injuries are worse. It’s difficult for me to be sympathetic to his situation. I immediately decided that he was drunk, texting or exhibiting road rage as he plowed into my friend’s car. Not Angie. There were many of us who decided he was not worth our sympathy in the midst of Angie suffering. Not Angie. In an email she wrote, she asked for all us to pray for the other driver. This is the Angie I know. She has the spirituality and forgiveness to be worried about the other driver. It makes me take stock in who I need to forgive, as well as what I no longer need to hold onto.

Love

Angie has always been a kind and generous person. It didn’t take an accident to make her that way. In the email where she asked for everyone to pray for the other driver, she said, “I love each and every one of you.” It’s such a powerful statement. How often do I tell the people I love that I do love them? There is connection in acknowledging love. I don’t say it enough to enough people in my life. It seems to cure all ills and set things right. Regardless of where Angie is in six months, she will have love. I’ve taken stock in love.

Angie’s husband sent me a picture of the car post-accident. She’s lucky to be alive. I have taken stock in the reality that we are all lucky to be alive. Make the most of it. What do you need to take stock in?

 

Change of plans. Being open to uncertainty.

I schedule everything.  I mean everything.  My exercise, my plane flights, my meals, my doctor’s appointments.  Ever since my phone was synced up to my Outlook calendar, I make sure everything is scheduled.  The problem?  Inevitably something changes.  It’s like Uncertainty is the new Black.  It’s ubiquitous.

I have to say I am more flexible now.  I used to feel as though I was out of control.  If there was restaurant I wanted to go to that was closed on Sundays – Grrr frustration.   No one wants to watch the movie I just purchased?   Well, I’ll just make them like it (and watch it).  But now I am much more open.  More resilient.   I bob and weave and take on whatever comes my way.

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As I reflect, I realize why I am able to rise to the challenge.  I had the privilege to have Paul McGinniss as a trainer for my coach training at the Neuroleadership  Group some four years ago.  I can remember vividly that when he was working with someone and they hadn’t follow through saying “No sweat.”  For me, saying “No sweat” is letting go and moving forward.   No value judgment.  Just acknowledging what wasn’t done, and move on.

Here is what I’ve learned:

  • Shrug off disappointment. I recently purchased tickets to Cirque du Soleil for my daughter’s birthday.  About a week before the performance, they canceled the performance.  My reaction was disappointment but it was only temporary.  I didn’t dwell on it.  Oh well.  Move on.  She came home that weekend instead.  It was much more chill and everything worked out great.  Don’t dwell on the disappointment.  So if you don’t get that client or land the big contract.  Oh well. Do something else.
  • Be realistic. I flew to Orlando last week and had arranged for my son to drive up from Miami to meet me.  I hadn’t looked at how far that drive was.  It’s 4 hours.   So I was expecting him to drive 8 hours in one day just to see his mother.   Did I mention he’s in his final weeks of his junior year in college?    He made a prudent decision to not drive to Orlando since he couldn’t spend the night.  Make sure you set realistic expectations or you will be disappointed.
  • Plan B. The good news is that my son proposed a Plan B.   What if we met half way?  Pretty soon he found a few coffee shops and a Colombian restaurant about halfway in between.  2 hours for him and 2 hours for me.  Lunch?  Let’s do it.  So we ended up meeting at this Colombia restaurant in Port St. Lucie halfway up the Florida  It was wonderful.  Be open to plan B.
  • Be in the moment. I practice meditation every day.  I have consistently done this for the last 4 years.  I am more resilient.  I can step behind the waterfall and let small disruptions roll on by.  I’m not saying I never get ticked off or disappointed but I am much more able to keep my reaction more of a response instead of overreacting.  I credit that to my meditation practice.  This can be accomplished through other practices that bring you back into your body and out of your head like yoga, running, walking or playing an instrument.
  • Don’t be attached to the details. I knew I wanted to see my son when I was in Florida.  I had looked up things to do in Orlando for that day.  Universal?  Disney?  Movie?  Nope. Nope and nope.  Lunch with my son in a Colombian restaurant (one of our favorite cuisines) was perfect.  The only detail I was attached to was seeing my son.
  • Keep your eye on the prize. What is your purpose?  Sometimes I have a client that seems to be going off the rails and  I just need to be present and focus on what they need.   I know my purpose it to be of service.   My purpose is to make a difference in people’s lives.  The details of getting there is up to the client.  No agenda.  Just service.  Keep your eye on your purpose and you will get there to.

 

Change of plans?  No sweat. Move on.

Ambiguity. How to Thrive in a Gray World

Everyone wants to live in a black and white world. We want to know what is right and wrong. Good or bad. Left or right. Clear concise decisions with no gray area and no regrets. It’s not going to happen. The world is way too complex. We need to embrace ambiguity and march forward with no misgivings. Very little is black or white anymore. There are a million shades of gray. Ambiguity.  How to Thrive in a Gray World

Every time you venture out of bed you are entering an ambiguous world. Heck, even if you stay in bed, the ambiguous world keeps rolling along. The stock market goes up or plunges down, it snows ten feet or doesn’t rain for three years, your wireless router quits for the third time in 18 months, your partner dumps you or you find the love of your life. Nothing is certain. The only that is certain is uncertainty (oh, and death and taxes).

There is hope in all of this but you have to go through and not around. Here is my take:

Perfection. Give up perfection. This doesn’t mean quitting. It means you need to let go. Perfectionism is a false construct. There is no end. You never get to perfect. Your ideal weight plus the perfect job plus the bulging bank account plus the sexy sports car and the perfect, patient, happy spouse will not align in The Perfect Storm. So you might get a flat tire on the way to the airport, you may not land that new job, the next project launch may not fly. Don’t keep score on perfection.

Paralysis. There is no perfect solution. Analysis paralysis has thwarted many a decision. Just one more data point, one more month of sales, another data cut, one more project bid, or one more applicant. The only decision you are making is to not make a decision. Your team, your family, your partner, your boss are counting on you making the decision. One more data point will not make it crystal clear. Stop the analysis.

Surrender. As my good friend, Janine, says with regard to ambiguity, “I am seeking to embrace and sit with uncertainty and not necessarily take action to move through it. More of a surrender to the ambiguity.” There are times when you have to surrender and the best action is no action but to be uncomfortable with ambiguity. I remember starting a new job for a company many years ago and on my first day they decided that the business unit was for sale. Two years later it was resolved. I had no control over the sale of the business, I surrendered to the uncertainty.

Wrong. It’s OK to be wrong. I have grown up with a Mother who always had to be right. There was my way, everyone else’s way and then there’s my Mother’s way. The only way was her way. Being right was highly valued in my house. Being right does not embrace ambiguity. There is no acknowledgement that there might be another way. In fact as CRR Gobal espouses “everyone is right…partially.” So accept that you may be right but may be only 10% right. This allows for ambiguity and you won’t need to engage in lots of righteousness, which can be exhausting.

Chunking. I find that many of my clients make headway when they break things into chunks. A lot of the curse of ambiguity lies in the fact that it can be overwhelming. Ambiguity is a huge monster that incites fear. When you break off an eyelash, it becomes manageable. It’s doable. It’s understandable. It’s not so scarring. Instead of it being a monster, it’s just an eyelash. And then another eyelash, and another.. When you can metaphorically hold it in your hands the ambiguity evaporates. Break it into chunks.

Pause. Ambiguity is stressful. It’s easy to engage your lizard brain (the fight or flight or freeze mode). It’s instinctual. We all started as hunter-gathers. The lizard brain had a purpose which was to save you from a Saber-toothed Tiger or from poisonous plants. But lighting up your lizard brain all day, every day with mountains of email, the latest shooting or terrorist attack and your boss’ endless barrage of requests is simply not healthy. Yoga, meditation, a long walk or run, sitting down with a good book, anything to shut down your lizard brain will help you see ambiguity with fresh eyes.

Agile. As Beyond Philosophy said in their article on Ambiguity, “Work on your flexibility. Be willing to change course as more information comes to light. Don’t let pride delay you from correcting your course. Ambiguity can reveal facts at any time that are going to affect your best decision.” There will be more data points that come along after you set your course. Accept them and make a course correction or completely bail out. Let go of your ego and move on. Be agile.

This not easy. There is so much ambiguity permeating life every day. It’s not just work, or your marriage or your finances. It’s omnipresent. It’s the new normal. How do you embrace ambiguity?